First Impressions: Sony 85mm f1.4 G Master Series (Sony FE)

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 85mm f1.4 G Master Lens (11 of 11)ISO 4001-30 sec at f - 2.8

This is a lens that Sony FE lens mount users have been waiting for for years–and we’re finally getting it in March. The Sony 85mm f1.4 lens is the company’s latest addition to their FE lineup and lenses. It’s part of a new high end brand that they’re calling the G Master series. Like much of the company’s other lenses there is dust and splash protection built in. What’s really cool is the fully working aperture ring.

In the presentation on the lens, Sony said that their biggest priority was not only excellent resolution performance but also great bokeh. To that end, they gave this lens 11 aperture blades.

We got a bit of playtime with a final production unit today on the Sony A7r Mk II; and the quality is downright amazing.

Tech Specs

  • The lens features a new XA (extreme aspherical) element as well as three ED glass elements that work together to ensure that the in-focus areas are captured in extremely high resolution while the surrounding out-of-focus areas dissolve smoothly into a beautiful soft backdrop. It has a circular aperture with 11 blades – the most ever used in an α lens – that ensures bokeh is smooth and visually appealing. Externally, the new model has Sony’s original Nano AR Coating, which is of particular importance in a portrait lens as it reduces flare and ghosting, even with backlit subjects or similarly challenging lighting conditions.
  • For accurate autofocusing, the FE 85mm F1.4 GM lens includes a ring drive SSM motor system that provides ample power and speed to drive the lens’ large, heavy focus group. It’s also equipped with two position sensors to support flawless focus control of the large, heavy lens elements.
  • This new professional portrait lens is dust and moisture resistant and also has an aperture ring with on/off switchable click stops that can be adjusted based on whether a user is shooting still images or movies. It also has an AF / MF switch and a focus hold button2.

Ergonomics

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 85mm f1.4 G Master Lens (9 of 11)ISO 4001-30 sec at f - 2.8

The Sony 85mm f1.4 G Master series is fairly simple as far as lens design goes. It sports an all metal exterior and also feels like the 35mm f1.4 in many ways.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 85mm f1.4 G Master Lens (8 of 11)ISO 4001-50 sec at f - 2.8

One of those ways has to do with the massive front element and filter thread. This, in all reality, is a big lens. When you hold it, you know that you’re dealing with a big piece of glass. Here, you also see the new G logo. This logo has brushed metal and distinguishes it from the rest of the series.

In the future, this means that everyone will be going for Sony G Master series glass in the same way that Canon users aspire to get their hands on Canon L glass.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 85mm f1.4 G Master Lens (4 of 11)ISO 4001-50 sec at f - 2.8

What most characterizes the lens is the working aperture ring and the focusing ring–which are both rubberized and work well.

Build Quality

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 85mm f1.4 G Master Lens (2 of 11)ISO 4001-50 sec at f - 2.8

Sony says that this lens is dust and splash resistant. In my two hours with the lens, I didn’t get to take it to the beach and rub it around in the Coney Island sand. To be honest, I tend to think I’ve got more self-respect.

From what I can tell though, this is a big, beefy lens with some weight to it. If you dropped it on your foot, you’d surely be letting out a bit of a yelp.

Autofocus

With the Sony A7r Mk II, this lens focuses quite quickly. Part of this has to do with the new SSM drive motors on the inside. However, all of my tests were done in studio lighting and so I have yet to see how it performs in low light with various A7 models.

Image Quality

I’ll let you be the judge for yourself. All EXIF data is intact. Simply click the images and it’ll come up in the URL or the file name.

From what I can tell so far though, I’ve never seen anything so film-like from Sony. Everything from Sony usually feels very digital, so despite the high price tag, I may actually be saving up some money to buy this lens. Almost nothing feels like the medium format film gear that I own, but this is coming close.

Part of the reason could be the 11 aperture blades.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 85mm f1.4 G Master Lens sample photos (1 of 6)ISO 4001-2000 sec at f - 1.4

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 85mm f1.4 G Master Lens sample photos (2 of 6)ISO 4001-320 sec at f - 1.4

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 85mm f1.4 G Master Lens sample photos (6 of 6)ISO 4001-640 sec at f - 1.4

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 85mm f1.4 G Master Lens sample photos (5 of 6)ISO 4001-100 sec at f - 1.4

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 85mm f1.4 G Master Lens sample photos (4 of 6)ISO 4001-640 sec at f - 1.4

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 85mm f1.4 G Master Lens sample photos (3 of 6)ISO 4001-400 sec at f - 1.4

Update 3/7/2016

I got to spend some extra time with the lens on a press trip down to Miami. Here are some extra image samples.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 85mm f1.4 G Master Lens extra image samples (10 of 11)ISO 4001-160 sec at f - 1.4

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 85mm f1.4 G Master Lens extra image samples (4 of 11)ISO 1001-125 sec at f - 1.4

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 85mm f1.4 G Master Lens extra image samples (5 of 11)ISO 1001-200 sec at f - 1.4

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 85mm f1.4 G Master Lens extra image samples (9 of 11)ISO 4001-400 sec at f - 1.4

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 85mm f1.4 G Master Lens extra image samples (1 of 11)ISO 1001-1000 sec at f - 1.4

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 85mm f1.4 G Master Lens extra image samples (2 of 11)ISO 2001-250 sec at f - 1.4

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 85mm f1.4 G Master Lens extra image samples (3 of 11)ISO 1001-125 sec at f - 1.4

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 85mm f1.4 G Master Lens extra image samples (6 of 11)ISO 4001-200 sec at f - 1.4

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 85mm f1.4 G Master Lens extra image samples (7 of 11)ISO 4001-200 sec at f - 1.4

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 85mm f1.4 G Master Lens extra image samples (8 of 11)ISO 4001-400 sec at f - 1.4

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 85mm f1.4 G Master Lens extra image samples (11 of 11)ISO 1001-640 sec at f - 1.4

First Impressions

So far, I’m really liking the lens. Sony tends to use the word game changer often with their releases and with these new lenses (especially the 85mm) I actually have to give it to them. 11 aperture blades is something many companies haven’t done in years. Zeiss used to do 17 aperture blades, and it’s nice to see that we’re returning to this.

I’m going to hold my final feedback for the full review, but so far this looks overall quite positive. For even more Sony lens coverage, you should check out the site’s Lens Guide.